Monday, 11 June 2012

Assisi - the Town of Saints

Assisi is an old hill town just 19 km (i.e. 12 miles) east of Perugia. It is best known as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi - founder of the Franciscan order of monks in 1208. St. Assisi is also the patron saint of Italy.
Another famous saint is connected to this area - St. Clare, upon learning of St. Francis, left her affluent home and entered into monastic life. She established an order of nuns still in existence today -they are the Order of the Poor Clares.

The town itself is perched on a 400 meters high hill and looks charming even from the distance. When you enter through one of the gates built into an impressive wall, you can see a huge cathedral, impressive basilicas and there is even a convent. Basilica di San Francesco is filled with spectacular frescoes by Giotto and well worth a visit.

The thing I disliked about this town the most was how crowded it was. This is no wonder since 4-5 million visitors come hear every year. For many of them Assisi is a pilgrimage destination. Since the town is not very large (it only has around 3.000 inhabitants) it is definitely quite a challenge to make them all feel welcome.
I guess it is no surprise, the whole town looked like a one big souvenir shop to me.

Don't get me wrong - it is well worth a visit and one can definitely find some less frequented streets but I simply didn't feel it. The lack of time (only half of a day) could also be one of the reasons for not getting overwhelmed by this old town.

We would have probably liked the several less frequented sites outside of the city walls, but we never got to them (I guess that is why they are less frequented). We had the afternoon of the day reserved for another old town in the neighborhood - Gubbio. More about that in one of my next posts...


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